For the second time in three days the Seattle Reign battered a local college team in a preseason match. Tonight it was Seattle Pacific University in the team's final preseason game, and while in Thursday's match the University of Washington had a handful of dangerous chances on the counter, in this one the Falcons just held on for dear life.
Once again, Nahomi Kawasumi was the only international to play, as the Reign's four US internationals are preparing to play China tomorrow in Colorado and Kim Little and Jess Fishlock are with Scotland and Wales respectively for World Cup qualification matches. But even without them, the Reign were rampant — no doubt buoyed by the experience of playing in their new home stadium for the first time.
There was one change in the starting lineup from Thursday, with Amanda Frisbie starting on the bench to make room for Kiersten Dallstream. But there were plenty of positional adjustments, as head coach Laura Harvey is clearly still getting a feel for how how to position her chess pieces. Kate Deines was moved into one of the holding midfield spots in the 4-2-3-1, with Kendall Fletcher taking her place on the back line. Megan Brigman was set up at left wing after starting the last match at fullback (with Dallstream replacing her in defense). And Bev Goebel started in the attacking midfield spot behind forward Danielle Foxhoven, reversing the two roles from Thursday.
But the rotations clearly didn't affect the team's rhythm as they got on SPU early. Much like on Thursday, most of the danger came through the wings. This time it was Kawasumi who bossed the game from the right wing. Her ability to hold the ball off defenders, find space, and deliver crosses repeatedly torched the Falcons defense for open looks by runners.
The first goal came in the 6th minute, when Elli Reed sent in a free kick from about 40 yards out that Foxhoven leapt for. From my vantage, the forward didn't get to it and it went straight into the side netting. Or maybe Foxhoven got a slight touch. Not that it really matters... it's preseason. After that SPU was able to hold on for a while by turning away some good chances.
In the 20th minute Nahomi's first chance came as she touched the ball around the keeper for an open shot that was cleared off the line by an SPU defender. Then in the 29th Dallstream sent in a cross destined for Foxhoven but was deftly punched away by the keeper.
In the 31st Seattle finally got their second when Goebel sent in a long cross to the top of the box where Naho was unmarked for an emphatic goal. Then in the 37th Lauren Barnes boomed a long ball over the top to the wing, where Naho ran onto it and crossed to Foxhoven for the finish to make it 3-0. The 4th was a penalty just before halftime, when Keelin Winters was taken down in the box. Goebel slotted it in and the team went into the locker room with a 4-0 lead and really no hint of the tide changing.
Just as on Thursday, the second half was an opportunity to change up the roles and put on some unsigned trialists. Jenny Laponte came on for Goebel and Amanda Frisbie came on for Winters and played in central defense, as Barnes moved up to the defensive midfield and Dallstream moved up to lone forward and. . it all got hazy at that point. Suffice to say that there's positional flexibility on the team.
Seattle continued to maintain control and find dangerous chances, but none found the mark until the 73rd, when a Naho cross found the diving head of LaPonte (playing as the left back). Then two minutes later Naho sent in a cross for a headed goal from Kate Deines. Sensing a theme here. In the 85th Naho sent in a cross for a goal from Lyndsey Patterson. In the 87th, Naho sent in a cross for a goal from Lyndsey Patterson. Not an echo. That finished the scoring and Kawasumi finished the day with a goal and five assists.
Now the team switches focus to the regular season opener against Boston next Sunday, though the team that suits up for that match should be radically changed from this one, as Little, Fishlock, Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux, Hope Solo, and Stephanie Cox return from national team duty. That shift might require a break-in period and I wouldn't be shocked if the team starts off a little slow as they get to know each other. But certainly nothing as slow as last season, when they didn't win until their 12th match. There's every reason to think this Reign team is much, much better than that one, but we still have to wait to see it proven against pro competition.